When the inaugural NBA 2K League season ends in late August and we recall some of the year’s top storylines, Magic Gaming’s recurrent resilience will no doubt rank high on the list.
From turning around its season after losing its first five games to adjusting to several sudden lineup changes, Magic Gaming has been one of the league’s most entertaining, and clutch, teams all year.
So, it came as no surprise that the Magic once again rose to the occasion when the pressure mounted. This time, against a hot Pacers squad, Magic Gaming’s fortitude prevented anything other than another impressive – and needed – victory.
Leading the entire first half, the Magic endured multiple runs by Pacers Gaming. Behind big shots from Emmanuel “UCMANNY” Cruz, including a go-ahead thunderous dunk with 1:16 remaining, and a crucial steal by Christopher “KontruL” Cantrell, Magic Gaming overcame a late three-point deficit to prevail, 69-66, on Saturday.
“It’s really a great team for staying resilient and getting that energy going because we are close with every team,” said Brian “NachoTraynor” Traynor, who posted 10 points, six assists and three rebounds in his first game in the lineup since Week 2 of the regular season. “We feel like we haven’t lost one game we couldn’t have actually won. It’s a great atmosphere to be around and Ryan (DeVos), Chris (Toussaint) and Dev (Gossett) helping us getting through our struggles as a team.”
“It was great to be back in the lineup. I struggled out there a little bit but thankfully my team had my back on that,” he added.
Prior to returning to New York for Saturday’s contest, the Magic spent the past week participating in a boot camp with Wizards District Gaming. During that time, they experimented with lineups and explored tactical preferences.
At least for this particular game, the decision to inject NachoTraynor back into the lineup and alter some of his teammates’ archetypes worked well.
“We ran through a bunch of different lineups just to see each player’s strengths and weaknesses especially with coach Dev analyzing everybody,” NachoTraynor said.
Cameron “KingCamRoyalty” Ford, who moved to the center spot, led all scorers with 20 points, while UCMANNY, as a sharpshooting rim protector, tallied 17 points. The backcourt of KontruL and Bilal “SUPREME PULLER” Almashni combined to make five free throws in the final 20 seconds to help the Magic improve to 6-4 in the regular season.
The win did more than just energize the team, though. It propelled the Magic in the playoff picture. With Knicks Gaming locking up a postseason berth by winning The Ticket, last week’s mid-season tournament, the Magic will have to finish no worse than seventh in the final standings to qualify. They are currently tied with Heat Check Gaming for fifth place.
“We knew we needed to win this game,” NachoTraynor said. “And next week especially with the Mavs, because the Mavs are struggling, we want to use that to our advantage to just get some wins going and then potentially go 7-4 and that might put us as a top five seed. So instead of worrying about, oh are we are going to make the playoffs, we might position ourselves to be a four or three seed if we continue winning and build this momentum going into the playoffs. This is the best time to peak as a team.”